The Brown Snake Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle
The Brown Snake Eagle is a fairly large species of bird of prey. This species is a predator of a variety of snakes, venemous or not.
A very solitary bird, the brown snake eagle has a prolonged breeding cycle and raises a single eaglet. Although probably naturally scarce, it is classified as a least concern species as it continues to occur over a very broad range.
Although it is not migratory, brown snake eagles may be somewhat nomadic, with cases of birds on territories stretching up to 200 km (120 mi) apart. Furthermore, ringed birds have been known to travel 2,100 km (1,300 mi) away (from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo). This species dwell in open woods and wooded savanna, most often preferring areas where gulley or wooded hillocks break up flat areas, apparently preferring somewhat more densely wooded areas than related snake eagles. This species may dwell at any elevation from sea level to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) high
Their plumage about the body is entirely a fairly dark brown, with some claims of a purplish sheen in certain light conditions. The body colour extends to the wings but for their contrasting unmarked flight feathers which are whitish-grey. The shortish tail, which is most easily seen in flight, is at all ages barred brown and greyish cream. The juvenile is similar in appearance and colour but tends to have very sparse white feather bases, with birds from south of the range apparently showing heavier white speckling, especially on the abdomen and head. This species has a large head and bare legs, which serve to distinguish it from other brownish medium-sized eagles in Africa. The brown snake eagle is of medium size relative to species referred to as eagles,total length is from 66 to 78 cm (26 to 31 in) and wingspan is from 160 to 185 cm (5 ft 3 in to 6 ft 1 in). Known weights are between 1.5 and 2.5 kg (3.3 and 5.5 lb), with an average of around 2.05 kg (4.5 lb).Despite its fairly large size, this species has a relative small wing spread, being smaller winged than the bateleur and even the much lighter black-breasted snake eagle. The brown snake eagle's call is a hoarse, guttural hok-hok-hok-hok, usually uttered in territorial displays at conspecifics and sometimes culminating in a crowing kaaww. Pairs also call a soft kwee-oo probably as a contact call at the nest.
The brown snake eagle is somewhat larger and more powerful than other snake eagles and consequently tends to take relatively larger prey. It seems virtually any reasonably sized snake, regardless of whether harmless or venomous is taken indiscriminately. Like others in their subfamily, they have natural protection against bites, with thick-skinned legs. Hunting is typically from a tree perch or hillock, but also rarely sometimes from flight, and taken almost exclusively on the ground. Like most snake eagles, they quite often swallow their prey whole (though particularly large snakes are torn apart), but seldom do so in flight as do other snake eagles. Alternate prey is known to have included monitor lizards, toads, francolins, guineafowl and chickens as well as rats and perhaps other mammals.
The Lilac Breasted Roller feeds on insects like grasshoppers, beetles, occasionally lizards, scorpions, and small amphibians. Lilac-breasted rollers like to perch on high treetops or telephone poles to watch for their prey. When they see something, they will swoop down and batter their target with their wings. After beating their prey into submission, they will swallow it whole. One typical aspect of its behavior is that it also preys on animals fleeing from bush fires. It is a swift flier. In turn various birds of prey are the main predators of the lilac-breasted roller.
This species is solitary and even the breeding pair is rarely seen in the same place at any point of the year. Males do almost all known territorial display flights, which sometimes escalate from typical soaring into butterfly-like erratic flight movements and, if escalated, into interlocking of talons and cartwheeling. Breeding takes places in November to July. The nests are relatively small, usually about 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in) across and 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in) deep, often being on flat-topped trees such as Acacia or Euphorbia at 3.5 to 11 m (11 to 36 ft) above the ground. Sometimes the nests are infrequently on top of epiphytes, buffalo-weaver nests or on electric pylons. Old nests of other raptors are not infrequently used, from tawny eagle to gymnogene nests, and are frequently perceptibly bulkier than those built by snake eagles themselves.
A single egg clutch is laid and is incubated mainly by the female for approximately 50 days (quite long for an eagle of this size). Like most birds of prey, the female largely takes on brooding and the male food deliveries. In this species, the male often arrives with a snake hanging from his mouth with only the tail extending from his throat, the female then pulls it out of his bill and throat, thereafter she tears the prey into appropriately sized bites for the single eaglet. The juvenile eagles stay around the nest for 60–100 days before exploring branches along the perimeter, until they fledge at 97-113 (mean of about 109) days. The juvenile brown snake eagle is completely independent a few weeks after fledging. Though the young eagle may continue to beg the adults, the parents soon lose interest in feeding the young eagle.
Typical lifespan in this species is around 7–10 years, short for an eagle. This species is somewhat scarce and is possibly declining overall per the IUCN but it is persisting fairly strongly over a large range, that includes 23.3 thousand square kilometers. It is therefore at least concern status for immediate conservation attention.
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